Killing five hours on the Turbo: three-week coundown

Last week was the three-week countdown, with promises of storms, wind, rain etc. I opted for a long turbo session on Saturday. Here’s how that five hours went (and the rest of the week).

Saturday was set up as my last long big brick training day before starting the two-week taper for Ironman Barcelona. After a slow 4K in the pool (setting goals like 1K continuous, 100s but no break etc), I came home and with my nutrition bottles full, snacks in the bento box, and race gear on, I got myself ready for a day on the turbo.

The Tacx turbo is currently on loan to me by Chris. He gave it to me to help get me going again after breaking my collar bone at the end of July. Do you remember? The heatwave! Last August I relocated to Brighton and downsized, so the turbo is squashed into a dark little section of what I laughingly call my ‘dining room’.  I’ve become accustomed to sweating it out in this small space, following fantastical, virtual routes on Zwift.

For someone who hates the treadmill, I’ve been surprised how I’ve come to quite enjoy training on the turbo. It could be connected to my general dislike of cycling, cars and all things mechanical. However, I think there’s also something in the masochism. In her book A Life Without Limits, Chrissie Welington talked about Brett Sutton’s unique approach to training, including putting his athletes into the training equivalent of a torture chamber, a treadmill in a room with no TV, no music, no windows.

Hungry after the swim I’d had a cafetière of coffee, and some marmite on toast, but I tried not to extend the already long transition (which had included a 20-minute drive along the A27 from pool to home). For the first 90 minutes I chose to listen to Graham Norton on Radio 2, a good interview with Lily Allen, and some banter, kept me ticking over.  I like the Watopia course as it makes it seem like I’ve covered a reasonable distance.

Inspirational Video

After one hour I got off the bike and searched Amazon Prime for some inspirational video. I’d watched Iron Cowboy on Friday night, about James Lawrence’s crazy 50 Ironman Races in 50 days! Yes 50! So, under the triathlon film section, the next choice was The Ultimate Triathlon, a documentary about Luke Tyburski’s  journey from Morocco To Monaco as a swim, bike, run, covering 2000km in 12 days. This was a handy 97 minutes, fitting in nicely with my planned break on the bike. After Luke’s epic journey, next on the list was the hugely inspirational Heart: Flatline to Finish, a story of six cardiac patients, followed over a year, as they take on Ironman. In between these films I’d treated myself to a cup of tea. Next up, I chose an inspiring endurance woman (who also happened to have a film that lasted one hour, just enough for my last section), Nikki Kimball’s 237-mile run across an impossibly hard trail, in Finding Traction: The Ultra Marathon Documentary.

And on I went…

 

With masochism on my mind, I kept going. Watching these individuals push the limits kept me pedalling. Luke repeatedly going unconscious after 15 hours of running, Nikki’s meltdown running 50 plus miles on no sleep, and the heart patients appreciating every second they had and the chance to follow their dreams.

The Why?

Of course these films, these stories, raise questions about the sanity and purpose of doing these things, including Ironman, and the reasons why? Watching as I rode, I was inspired by the heart patients who chose living over a death sentence and appreciated the social element and the support and camaraderie of doing triathlon (ironic as I spent all day on my own, but that will return). I won’t tell you the story, but one of the most inspirational of the group, who chose to coach as well as train, talked passionately about the chance to give something back. Similarly, Nikki a depression sufferer pre-ultra running, who questioned what the hell she was doing, and considered giving up, in that meltdown scene, was reminded of her inspiration. The next day she met a woman form the online community, Girls on the Run, a non-profit empowerment programme, inspiring girls aged eight to 13 through running. And to think I nearly gave up she said tearfully. And Luke, he simply said: If it doesn’t challenge you. It doesn’t change you.’

For me ‘the why’ is a whole other blog post – which I may come back to at the end of this training block.  I was brought up a Catholic and so of course 40 days in the desert, fasting, stations of the cross etc… have left a lasting impression! Somewhere, deeply embedded in my subconscious there was a belief that suffering and endurance will lead to some kind of spiritual enlightenment. But I feel for me that’s an old idea and I’m currently reviewing my policies. I can’t help thinking that the masochism and suffering is a bit unnecessary… However, I do also feel the experience of pushing your limits, of being consistent, of training, is transformational. And for me I  have a feeling of having come full circle with my challenging and changing.  I know it’s a good thing. But as I say, I’ll come back to that.

And back to the Training…

Five hours on the turbo was followed by a slow run in the park in the rain. I’d started training at 830am and finished up by about 7pm (yes, there were breaks!). On Sunday the planned long run started well, I felt physically good, but mentally a little weary. By mile 14 I hit the wall I was reminded of the films I’d watched.  I was feeling very spaced out, going pale, and slowing down to a shuffle, but as a nod to Luke and Nikki I remembered I wasn’t remotely close to a limit. I’d just got my nutrition wrong!

A summary of the week

Two days in London, half a day tidying up my very messy house, the launch of DrivenWoman and a lovely treatment with the brilliant Greg Funnell* at Optimum Muscle Care meant I only managed five days training, but 14 hours was satisfactory – and what I could manage.

*Thank you Greg – I swam pain free on Saturday for the first time since the CB break.

And that is that really. I’m now in the two-week countdown. This week I do have three rides, three runs and three swims planned, but all of less volume and intensity. There’s breathing space. The training now shifts to stretching, relaxing, preparing and getting ready to enjoy the big day!

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A great long run is a series of small steps.

Doing the long session as part of your weekly training is what endurance is all about. I do love the long session. For me that’s generally a long run, but very soon will be a long bike ride, and a long swim too.

When it comes to running, the first step is the thing that makes it a great long run. Getting out of bed, putting on your trainers, and getting out the door.

Setting out on a long run can be a way to discover new places and can be a voyage of exploration on new paths, twists and turns. Yesterday we were checking out the route from Brighton to Eastbourne. The plan had been to run to Eastbourne and get the train home, but Storm Brian had meant the trains weren’t running so well. So instead, the plan was to run 10 miles out and 10 miles back.

I tripped on a very slight rise in the path on the prom just three miles into the 20-mile run. I whacked my shoulder and hip, but got up and was able to carry on. I felt good on the way out as the wind blew us along, along the undercliff path from the Marina in Brighton and then up to the top towards Peacehaven and a little beyond. It was, to coin a pahrase, a breeze. But the ease at which we were striding along the unknown path was an ominous warning of what was to come. And as expected the route back was tough, running 10 miles into a headwind, I have to confess I did get a bit grumpy as the jelly baby sugar rush dropped low, and I shouted out, ‘I’m not enjoying this anymore’.

Sea runThe path on the way back changed, too. The tide had come in and so the undercliff path was flooded and the waves crashed over the wall. At first I was scared. Thoughts of that one freak wave flooded my imagination as I splashed through the watery path. There really would be no way to escape it, if it had come in. But soon I was invigorated again by the huge waves. Getting closer to the wall so I could get splashed like a child on a water coaster.

The bull in the field, or the cow with her heifers, the odd-looking lone man, border line hypothermia in snow and rain, punctures, crazy currents and waves. The endurance athlete’s weekly event of ‘going long’  is like a mini life story with all sorts of emotions, obstacles, and terrains to cross, and very often a range of feelings from exhiliaration to  F**k this! Too much of the latter can lead to the whole thing being a negative experience, the long run being a drag, and in the long term damage gets done to our muscles and joints. It’s how we look at each long run we do that matters.

Yesterday, I pulled myself back together. And towards the end I was in the rhythm of the run, concentrating without thinking, in the flow, feeling tired, but knowing I could keep going. I also knew stopping was going to mean geting going was going to be hard work. Momentum mattered.

Going long is just a series of steps. At a very inspring talk set up by Virgin last week, the founder of the successful Conker Gin, Rupert Holloway said that business is just a series of decisions. There’s no big secret formula you need to discover to succeed. Take that next step or stop. Turn this way or that. Run up the hill or take the flat route today. Go out in the stormy weather, or stay in bed.  Buy or sell, be kind or unkind, happy or unhappy.

We live in an era where many of us will be in it for the long run. As medicine has advanced to keep us alive, it’s important to make a decision to live well now, not just live long. Diana Gould, is a 105 and was featured on this morning’s BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She lives well and it’s clear that her secret to a long and healthy life comes from those minute by minute decisions, and how she looks at her age. “I’ve got a lot of years, but I’m not an old woman,” she says. She says she’s kept moving, she’s kept social, she’s kept her brain active, and she enjoys life and things she loves. She loves chocolate and makes the daily decision to keep it in the fridge, that way she has to walk to go and get it – and that little step, that small bit of daily exercise contributes to making her live well in this long life of hers.

Listen to Diana Gould: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b099v2py#play